Unnecessary Culture Shock

Act Six

She pulled her tired body out of bed Hea placed her bare feet on the cold floor. Ugh, when was the last time she actually had to get up at this ungodly hour? When she was by herself for the last year, she made all the rules! Hell, she didn't have to get if she didn't want, or even brush her hair in the morning before leaving her place of stay! But now? Not only did last night's party end in the worst way possible, she had to come home only to be told that she was going to work as a sheep herder again. What the heck was the point of traveling around if she wasn't even going to cook?! What was all that learning good for now!

Then again she didn't leave because she wanted to learn how to cook or even bake. No, she left for a reason she hadn't even come to terms with herself yet. She hadn't told anyone why she left in the first place and she wasn't planning to. No one needed to know why she left, why she needed to get away from Berk as far as possible. Rye was a good mind reader but she couldn't have any idea about the truth for her 'trip'.

But that was all said and done, wasn't it? Why worry about it now, she was here and there was nothing she could do about it. Not just yet anyway. She was going to leave Berk again, there was no way she could stay with those flying rats around! It was just a matter of convincing Rye to come along with her that was the issue. Once Rye agreed to come with her, then she'd be the first to get in a boat and sail away in the sunset!

Shaking any lingering memory of the party from her mind, Hea pushed her exhausted body off of her bed and stood up straight. A shiver tore through her body, causing her arms to pull up and hug against her chest. Ugh, how could she forget how cold it got here in Berk? She turned after a moment of trembling and moved over toward her lump of clothing that sat in a pile on the floor. Bending over, she peeked through the various articles of clothing until she found her grizzly pelt. She stood up straight and slipped the coat over her body with ease.

A snort from the floor caused the young herder to glance down. Standing with a look of fatigue plastered all over her face, Bug looked back up at her, eyes half lidded. Aw, she had gotten up along with her? Heh, not even the Pomeranian was used to the early morning job, was she? But whenever the dog had a chance to get out, she took it without hesitation even if it was at this hour.

"Let's go," She said moving across the bedroom floor until she reached the doorway.

The sound of Bug's nails on the hard floor followed her from her bedroom until they reached the front door. With the early morning light that flooded through the windows, Hea reached over to the wall left of the front door to find her cane. Moving as slowly and quietly as possible, she opened the door and stepped outside. After making sure Bug had followed, she turned around and shut the door. No need to wake up Rye, this was her job, there wasn't any need to wake her up just because she had to!

The cool crisp air made the hairs on her arms stand up straight. Ugh, it should be against the law for it to be this cold in the morning. Berk wasn't known for its superb weather but this was nuts! Maybe taking a leave for a year and a half was too long, it was going to take forever to get used to herding sheep again! Ah well, it could be worse, at least there weren't any dragons in sight…yet.

She had her fill last night, she didn't need to see another dragon the rest of her life! That thing, that Night Fury looked anything but tame, it growled at her! Like he was going to bite or something and what did Hiccup do? Nothing! Where was this great dragon trainer she had heard so much about? Even when Bug acted out of line, a good tap of the foot was enough to silence her but Toothless? Ugh, allowing dragons to live on Berk was a bad idea, really bad.

Hea moved across the small living space in the village until she found herself in front of the pen where the sheep were kept. Ah, it was almost nostalgic! Maybe if she didn't dread the mornings so much, she might have enjoyed it. In any event it was time to let the sheep out for the morning feed then in a few hours she could put them back and return to bed. The sooner this was done, the sooner she could get back to her room!

She placed her hand on the freezing metal latch of the main gate and popped it free with little effort. The old wooden gate released a rather loud creak as she pulled it wide open she stepped into the grassy area leaving the door open only long enough for Bug to enter along with her. Once both girls were safely inside the small space, she turned and locked the gate. Now time to release the sheep!

One by one, Hea let the small sheep out of their holding areas, allowing them access to their breakfast. She took a quick head count of each animal and after seeing that they were all in order and in place, she stepped over to a large rock that sat in the middle of the tiny field. Ugh, her butt was going to hurt later but she'd get used to it. When she was doing this before, she got used to it, she could do it again! The tired, shivering female laid her wooden cane on the floor and took her seat on the large stone.

It was going to be a fight just to stay awake.

Her few moments of silence were broken when the sound of crunching gravel caught her off guard. Before she could turn around to look behind her, she watched as Bug's ears stood up straight. Along with her watch dog, Hea turned and glanced over her shoulder to see a very familiar male standing in front of the gate.

What the heck was Hiccup doing here? Hadn't he had enough last night at the party? Ugh, he was probably here to try to convince her how sweet and tame dragons were. She wouldn't have it, no way! She those nasty reptiles and she always had and always would, no amount of talking would stop her from disliking them. Just because one boy found one dragon that seemed presentable didn't mean they were all domesticated!

She arched a brow as the young trainer opened the lock on the gate. In complete silence, he entered the small grassy area, locking the gate behind him after he was finished. He turned back around and once again they locked gazes. His bright green eyes stuck on her like she was some kind of stranger. Why did he have to stare at her like that? No hint of anger, disappointment or shame, just Hiccup. Wasn't he mad about earlier? After all she had hit his pet.

Anyone else would be seriously pissed, right? Hell, if someone reached out and swatted Bug on the snout, she would be mad no doubt! But there he stood with no emotion on his face. Did he want to talk or something?

"Hey," He said as he approached her.

'Hey', that was it? He was a Viking! Where was that aggressive demeanor everyone else seemed to have and handle so well? Hiccup had always been different, she was aware of that but could he really be that different from his father and the people in the village? She knew him and he knew her and that was about it. When she and Rye first moved to Berk they saw each other but never spoke unless it was necessary. True she and her sister went out of their way not to tease him or call him 'Hiccup the Useless' but they were by no means friends. Acquaintances and that was pretty much it. So why did he feel the need to talk to her now?

"Morning." She said before returning her eyes to the small herd ahead of her. "Why are you up so early?"

"Eh," His voice became louder the further he approached. "I was just in the area and I saw you and Bug coming this way."

Her chin lifted. Did he just call Bug by her name? Since when did he remember her name or even the fact that she had a dog? "Oh." She cleared her throat.

He came around to her right side and took a seat on the rock beside her. He extended his prosthetic leg outward while bringing his right leg up. He rested his right elbow on his bent knee and exhaled. "My dad told mentioned you'd be our resident sheep herder again."

"Yeah." She grunted.

The small area fell silent. What was he thinking? When was the last time they actually sat down to talk like this, hell, had they ever sat down to talk like this? Hiccup wasn't one to make any sort of social move, maybe he had gained some confidence over the past year? After all, he had grown a lot and not just physically. He was still small in comparison to his father and others like Fishlegs but he had done some maturing. Still cute in any event; she had always thought so but he always seemed shy. Too shy to communicate with anyway.

What did he want? Did he really come all the way out here, in the freezing fog, to convince her to like or accept the dragon lifestyle? What else would he be out here for, not for his health anyway. That leg had to be hurting in the cold. Might as well cut to the chase, why waste any more time?

"So you here to encourage me to like Toothless?"

"You remembered his name." A light chuckle left his lips. "That's a good sign."

"I'm serious." Hea paused and for the first moment since he arrived, turned to look at him.

"No," He answered, her emerald eyes darting off in a different direction. "I can't force you to like Toothless or any other dragon."

What? She narrowed her field of vision at the smaller boy. "Then why are you here? I was sure you'd be out here to either yell at me for last night or persuade me to like dragons."

"I never really forced anyone to like dragons." He said, his right hand clenching to make a fist. "And about last night, I didn't know you were scared of them and-"

"I'm not afraid of dragons." She hissed.

"Okay," He paused to correct himself. "I didn't know you disliked them that much, no one told me. I would have left Toothless outside the village if I knew that. Did living here really rub off on you that much?" He asked, finally turning her way.

"What?"

"You hate dragons," He said with a shrug. "You aren't a Viking but you dislike them? I'd say we rubbed off on you."

She felt the edges of her lips begin to curl in a small smile. "I guess so." Why did he have to make her laugh? This was no time to be making jokes! "But you never answered my question," She allowed her smile to fade.

His eyes once again moved away from her. "I wanted to make sure you were okay, and I haven't seen you in a while."

"I'm fine, thank you."

"Did you find what you were looking for?" When had his voice become so soothing?

"Wasn't anything to find out there." She lifted her right hand to her head and ran her fingertips to her brown locks. "It was more like a getaway then an adventure anyway."

Oh shoot, did she just say that? Hea felt her lips snap shut. What the heck? When did she become so open with anyone other than Rye? Then again how long had she been out alone? Maybe she needed someone to talk to. Talking with Bug was fine but she didn't exactly reply with any kind of advice.

"What were you getting away from?"

That would be the next logical question. She took in a deep breath through her nose and held it for a moment. What was she supposed to do, lie? He had never given her a reason to dislike him or find him untrusting so why lie? After all, if there was anyone on Berk, besides Rye, that would understand any kind of trouble, it would be him. How many years did he go being a social outcast? As long as he didn't go blabbing her private information to anyone else, it would be okay, right?

Because Rye didn't need to know, not yet anyway.

Releasing the stale air in her lungs, Hea pushed her body off her stone seat. She stood up straight, back facing the dragon trainer. If she was going to pour her heart out to him, she wouldn't let him see her face. If she started to cry, she wouldn't forgive herself. She couldn't cry in front of a Viking, she'd look pathetic. After what he'd been through, her problems were nothing. Why disrespect him by shedding any kind of tear?

"I couldn't stay here after what happened with Rye." She admitted aloud.

"Ah," What sounded like a heavy sigh passed his lips. "I get it. You don't have to get into it if you don't want to."

She froze. Without thinking, she glanced over her shoulder and her eyes landed on him. He sat in the same position, looking at her with sympathy. Sympathy. Since when did Vikings feel anything but rage? Anyone else here would have dug at her for an answer and here he sat, willing to end the conversation on the ground that it might make her upset. Would anyone else, besides Rye, give her that kind of respect? And what had she done to deserve or receive that kind of respect? No, she wasn't worthy of such kindness, not after running away.

"I can't stay here now." Her mouth went into motion before she could think about what to say next. "I can't live with dragons."

Turning her chin forward once more, she stared out at the small herd of sheep. What the heck was she doing here? Why was she in this place at this moment, talking to him? There had to be a reason, she came back for a reason, right? She didn't believe in coincidences or flukes. She had survived her journey across different lands and islands and Rye had survived her burns for a something other dumb luck.

"When she got hurt like that, I thought she was going to die for sure." She continued to speak, even if her pride cracked along the way. "Her burns looked so deep and she screamed so much, after a while I thought it might have been easier if she did die. I was sure, if the burns didn't kill her then some kind of infection afterwards would and I was scared."

He remained silent.

"I couldn't think about our last conversation or what our last meal would have been. To sit there and watch her suffer wasn't just killing her, it was killing me. I couldn't watch it happen, I couldn't watch her die."

What kind of sister would even think those kinds of things about her sibling? How could she be so selfish? When her sister was suffering and possibly dying, all she was worried about was herself. What kind of person did that make her? It didn't make her a great Viking, chef or even sheep herder, it made her a selfish coward.

"So I left."

I was a coward and I ran away.

"After she was better, I left." She repeated herself in a voice that began to tremble. "I thought that the further away I was from her then the less I would care. I thought that if something happened to her while I was away and I heard about it through a letter it wouldn't hurt so much. If it was through the grapevine, the news would sting like it would to sit there and watch it."

Silence. Now what was he going to think of her? And what if the truth got around to everyone, what would happen then? They would hate her. Hell, she hated it. She wasn't strong enough to take everyone's reactions. If they hated her, it would hurt. She wasn't like him, the idea of being called 'useless' or 'a coward' was terrible; worse than a nightmare, only second to losing Rye.

"That's why I can't stay here." Beyond all the pain in her chest she continued, "If there's a chance that she'll get hurt again…I-I can't take that risk. And as long as there are dragons on Berk, there's a chance that she'll get hurt again."

"Will she go with you?"

She stiffened. Again without consent from her mind, she spun around to face Hiccup. His stance changed from moments before, now he sat up straight with both hands placed on the stone beneath him. He stared at her with a kind of seriousness she had not seen before. Like he was actually listening, like he cared. Was he judging her? It was too hard to tell but why did her heart tell her 'no'? He had been through a lot, more than she would ever face in a lifetime so he had to understand, right? He was by no means stupid but he was a Viking and Vikings weren't supposed to feel sympathy for others.

Right?

"She's already said she won't come with me." Her dark-colored eyes darted away from the younger male. "But I won't stop trying."

"You were alone for over a year, can't you go on your own?"

"I can't be alone anymore." She released a small sigh. "I was alone for so long and it wasn't easy. It goes against everything I just said but…I need her. More than anyone."

"Hm."

Hea glanced up to see the boy looking away from her. Was he mad? She looked away from him once again, this time turning her attention to the small ball of fluff on the grass. Bug laid with her body curled tight, no doubt snoring the morning and her confession away.

What was she supposed to say now? Was she supposed to apologize for striking Toothless at the party? After all, it wasn't like it was the Night Fury's fault she was so traumatized. Maybe she overreacted but did that warrant an apology? She was scared of dragons, scared of what they could do to a person, scared of what they could do to her. It would only take one accident for a dragon to hurt or kill someone she loved. She couldn't handle it if it happened again.

"You know, if you leave Berk there's a chance the next village you go to might have dragons." His voice broke her out of her thoughts. "Do you want me to teach you a few things before you leave?"

Where did this come from? After her lengthy, depressing confession he responds with such a simple question? Was he listening at all?! Maybe she was looking for advice in the wrong place, it wasn't like Hiccup would be great with social interaction. Then again the last year had been 'different'.

"Uh," She paused for a moment. "Like what?"

"The basics." He looked back up at her, this time with a lighter expression. "Maybe then you won't be so scared…" He stopped mid-sentence and cleared his throat, "I mean maybe you won't hate them so much afterward."

The basics? What kind of basics were there? Was he trying to expose her to them in order to make her unafraid and if that was it, why would he take time out of his day to do so? It wasn't like she had ever done anything for him in the past. Maybe he just wanted peace between humans and dragons in general, either way where did it leave her? If exposing her to a dragon would make the fear stop was it worth it?

Okay, she had just poured her heart out to an outcast Viking; something she hadn't even done with her sister and now he wanted her to test the waters with, she assumed, was a Night Fury? Ugh! What did she have to lose?

Shaking any logical thought out of her head she held her breath and spoke. "Fine! I'll do it."

"Good." He nodded his head once. "We can start tomorrow."

"Just you and I?"

"Just you, me and Toothless."

She lifted both hands to chest-level. "I'm not promising anything but if it'll help then I'm going to try."

"Okay." He flashed her the smallest hint of a smile.

She could do this, she could totally do this…right? If she could stop those near-panic attack episodes whenever she saw a dragon then maybe things would be smoother. Then if she could show Rye that she wasn't scared any more then she had a better chance at convincing her to leave. No one had to know that she would always be terrified to dragons. As long as she got out of range, that was all that mattered.

Act End.